While the match in Bihar between the NDA and Grand Alliance robbed the IPL final of eyeballs, Disney+Hotstar’s decision to go pay, as well as the fact that people preferred watching on TV rather than on handsets, also played a role in lower viewership through the tournament
Despite expectations that it would attract more eyeballs thanks to most people being confined to their homes because of Covid, this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) failed to make or break any viewership records on Disney+Hotstar, the platform videostreaming the league.
Unlike last year, when 18 million viewers were watching the IPL final concurrently, this year, viewership for the final ranged between four to six million on Disney+Hotstar.
In fact, the final match between Delhi Capitals and Mumbai Indians did not surpass even the viewership numbers for the first IPL match this year, between Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings, which had registered peak viewership of 8.7 million concurrent viewers.
So, what changed for the IPL this year on Disney+Hotstar?
It seems many viewers found the Bihar election results more interesting than the cricketing league. The tight race between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which had Nitish Kumar as its CM face, and the Tejashwi Yadav-led Grand Alliance, comprising the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Congress and Left parties, kept viewers glued to their seats.
However, Sandeep Goyal, Chairman, Mogae Media, a marketing agency, pointed out that Disney+Hotstar had gone behind a paywall, and that was the reason viewership numbers were impacted.
This year, to watch the IPL, viewers had to choose from the following Disney+Hotstar plans: Rs 299/month, Rs 1,499 for a year, and Rs 399/year. This is the reason industry experts believe viewership on Disney+Hotstar may have declined around 30 percent this year.
But some of the experts believe Disney+Hotstar’s strategy of putting the IPL behind a paywall is a step in the right direction as it will result in growth of the content subscription market in India. This year’s dip in viewership, they aver, is because many viewers are not ready to immediately shift to the subscription model.
Apart from the IPL being behind a paywall on Disney+Hotstar, Goyal pointed at another aspect. “The primary audience for OTT watching was the on-the-go audience. In the work from home scenario currently, with most public transport not fully functional, that audience was largely at home. They preferred to watch cricket on TV rather than on the mobile. That is the primary reason viewership numbers are tepid,” he said.
In terms of concurrent viewership throughout the league, the average ranged between four to six million.
Last year, the IPL had made new viewership records on Hotstar (now Disney+Hotstar). During the 12th edition, the match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians registered concurrency of 12.7 million viewers, which was later broken by the final.
This year, the Covid-19 impact resulted in a drop in viewership on the streaming platform, said Utkarsh Sinha, MD, Bexley Advisors, a boutique investment bank focussed on early-stage deals in tech and media. “The energy that a crowd adds to the broadcast or streaming experience was missing this year, making 2020 a muted year for the IPL. With fewer gatherings, people have been content to follow along rather than watch. This doubtless impacted viewership,” he opined.
Sinha said “what is truly needed is engagement, and most platforms are unable to capture the user post-match. And the rising broadcast (streaming) rights cost means that it will be progressively harder to break even.”
Ad inventory sold out
While viewership did not grow this year on Disney+Hotstar, things were strong on the advertising front.
“Disney+Hotstar saw a strong response on the advertising front for the IPL this year. The ad inventory was sold out a week before the IPL started,” said Shrenik Gandhi, CEO, and co-founder, White Rivers Media, a digital marketing agency.
In fact, ad rates on Disney+Hotstar saw a jump of more than 50 percent. The cost per mille (here, 1 mille = 1,000 views of an ad) on the platform was Rs 180 for a 10-second spot, up from Rs 100-110 last year.
Even the number of sponsors that Disney+Hotstar on-boarded this year went up from 10 to 13.
Yet, experts believe that the streaming platform may see a dip in overall advertising revenues this year as the sponsorship deals were offered at discounted rates. The 12th edition of the IPL saw Disney+Hotstar record a significant jump in ad revenue. Last year, Hotstar had recorded Rs 600 crore in advertising revenues, up from Rs 200 crore in 2018.